The name Opal was probably derived from Sanskrit ‘upala’, meaning valuable stone. Pliny, the famous Roman author, called Opal a gemstone which combines the best possible characteristics of the most beautiful of gemstones: the fine sparkle of Almandine, the shining purple of Amethyst, the golden yellow of Topaz, and the deep blue of Sapphire, so that all colors shine and sparkle together in a beautiful combination.
Numerous legends and tales surround this colorful gemstone, which can be traced back in its origins to a time long before our memory, to the ancient dream time of the Australian Aborigines. It is reported in their legends that the creator came down to Earth on a rainbow, in order to bring the message of peace to all the humans. And at the very spot, where his foot touched the ground, the stones became alive and started sparkling in all the colors of the rainbow. That was the birth of the Opals. Another tale says that Opal was created when God completed painting the universe, scraping the palette and dumping all the colors into one gem!
The myth that the stone is unlucky for all but those born in October, resulted from the heroine’s death in a novel written by Sir Walter Scott.
Opal is renowned for its flashing phenomena known as, ‘play-of-color’. Body tones of Opal vary from crystalline to white to black, while its play-of-color, emphasizes the spectral colors of red, blue, green and yellow which form vivid patterns that dance in the light.
Opal is a relatively soft stone with a hardness is a 5-6.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. Toughness is very poor to fair. It is an alternate birthstone for the month of October and it is the preferred gift for the 14th wedding anniversary.
Main Sources include, Australia , Brazil , Ethiopia , Honduras , Japan , Mexico and the US.
What is the Difference between Australian and Ethiopian Opal? All Opal, whether it be Wello Opal (from Ethiopia) or Australian Opal, are made from the same molecular structure – Silica. Silica is basically glass made from nature with a unique formation of molecules to create color. Australian Opal is formed differently than Ethiopian Opal.
The formation of Australian opal was due to an extraordinary episode of acidic weathering, during the drying out of the central Australian landscape. This happened when a vast body of water covering 60 percent of Australia, started retreating. Between 100 and 97 million years ago this sea came to cover a much smaller area. This meant the previously inundated central Australian landscape started drying out and acidic weathering happened on a massive scale, when pyrite minerals released sulfuric acid. As a result of the leaching of minerals into the soil, Opal material formed in pockets and fissures where Opal was formed.
Ethiopian Opal on the other hand was formed high in the mountains as the result of Volcanic activity. As a result, is found, not in seams like Australian Opal, but in variously shaped spheres imbedded in volcanic ash. Many of the Ethiopian Opals actually are fossilized vegetation and will also contain fossilized plant life within the crystals as well. The main difference between Australian Opal and Wello Opal is the porous nature of many of the Ethiopia Opals. This Opal material can actually absorb water. It is also referred to as (hydrophane). It is interesting to note that if you soak one of these Opals in water, you can watch it absorb the water and in doing so it will often become crystal clear, while maintaining it’s play of color. As the gem dry’s out however, it will become milky white and temporarily loose its brilliance. This drying period can be from a few hours up to a few weeks depending on the amount of time it has to absorb water and what the drying conditions are like. After the Opal becomes completely dry, the original play of color will return. Because Wello Opal likes to absorb water, it should not be exposed to oils, dye or any other colored liquid. If this type of Opal absorbs a colored solution, it will change the body color permanently.
Should you choose Wello Opal or Australian Opal? It totally depends on you!
Both are beautiful creations of nature and come in various sizes and colors. Wello Opal is fairly new to the market and becoming very popular. The only misfortune surrounding Opal is the pleasure missed by not owning such a dazzling gem !
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